"We have to start sharing humanity. We HAVE to figure it out. Dream big - make no small plans." - Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota Sioux and founder of the website 'Last Real Indians'.
Measuring some 11,000 square miles, Pine Ridge is the second largest reservation of its kind in the U.S. The Lakota Sioux make up just one group within a population of nearly 19,000 residents. The True Sioux Hope Foundation reveals a 90 percent unemployment rate; understandable, given that Pine Ridge has “no industry, technology or commercial infrastructure” and just “one grocery store of moderate size ... tasked with providing for the entire community.”
This translates to 97 percent of the Lakota Sioux living far below the U.S. federal poverty line. As a result, many homes in this area house an average of 17 people with 33 percent of these buildings having no electricity, basic water or sewage systems. An estimated 60 percent of these homes are deemed health hazards as a result of potentially fatal black mold. Due to a lack of insurance or government programs, residents are forced to remain living in these often toxic environments.
Eight out of 10 families are affected by alcoholism, which contributes to a death rate 300 percent higher than that of the average U.S. population. Along with alcohol abuse, nearly 50 percent of adults over the age of 40 on the reservation suffer from diabetes. The infant mortality rate measures 300 percent higher than the national average. Of those who make it past early childhood, 70 percent drop out of high school. To put this all in bleak perspective, the teenage suicide rate is 150 percent higher than the U.S. national average.
Another recent survey showed that the Lakota language is critically endangered, with a decline of almost 66 percent of people speaking their native tongue in the past decade.